‘Duterte death squad’

 

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

The infamous Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group accused by Amnesty International and local human rights advocate for widespread summary executions in Davao City, must have been in the mind of President Rodrigo Duterte when he announced that he would create his own hit squad, if that is what it takes to counter the Sparrow Units employed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Naming it the ‘Duterte Death Squad’, the president said it will try to match the communist rebel’s “talent in assassinating people.” An eye for an eye, as the saying goes. As if this is what is legally meant by extracting justice from the rebels.

Perhaps tired and exasperated that to this day government soldiers and policemen continue to be sitting ducks of the NPA’s hit men and hopeless that there will ever be peace while Duterte and exiled-CPP head Joma Sison continue to bicker, the former could not help but express his frustrations this way in his speech during the turnover of housing units for the military and police at Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Carmen, Bohol recently. The reality is that the plan is better said than done.

It is bad enough that to this day also there has not been any let up pertaining to killings in the government’s fight against drugs and if we have to believe that the formation of the ‘Duterte Death Squad’ is bound to happen then we simply have to admit that the country will no longer be govern by the rule of law.

But the presidency is so powerful, what with all the intelligence and resources the occupant has at the tip of his fingers that resorting to this foolish plan of creating a death squad is nothing short of being irresponsible.

Besides, Duterte as an astute lawyer and as the president of the country knows what is good for him and what is best for the country, but above all what weighs more for consideration is the legacy he wants to leave behind and how history would judge him.

Suffice to say Duterte’s announcement was just a metaphor and should not be taken seriously.

 

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Mockery of justice

 

Imelda Marcos

The much long awaited arm of the law has finally caught Imelda Marcos’s sticky fingers and most Filipinos rejoiced declaring the special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court’s conviction of her on seven counts of graft as victory for the people.

Imelda was found to have made a total of $200-million bank transfers to seven Swiss foundations of her own creation during her incumbency as Metro Manila Governor. Not only that. She and her despot husband were also found deliberately using aliases to hide the crime.

This means that the 89-year old widow now faces a sentence that will keep her incarcerated for over forty years, if indeed the penalty from six to eleven years for each count of graft happens to be the case.

But, is it time for rejoicing really?

By victory the people would have expected that with the conviction immediately thereafter a warrant for her arrest would follow.

Alas, it did not come to that. On the contrary, Imelda, a congress representative from Ilocos Norte, continues to enjoy freedom after she posted bail of P150,000. It said that the Sandiganbayan allowed her to post bail while it is still deciding whether or not to grant her appeal for post-conviction remedies.

If this is not a mockery of justice, I don’t know what is.

This is the same mockery of justice observed when former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, then 92 years old, was freed after spending a year in hospital arrest when he posted P1.45-million bail bond over the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.

Certainly among the post-conviction remedies to be discussed is age consideration and if it was able to release Enrile, why would it still send Imelda to jail especially that she is also having health issues?

This would not have been disturbing and frustrating if we knew that there are not old, sickly people languishing in jail as this piece is written, but the reality is that there are plenty and for reasons that some may be inside because of miscarriage of justice.

The same cannot be said, however, of Enrile, and now of Imelda Marcos.

Justice is suppose to be triumph over evil, but in the case of Imelda, and even for Enrile, evil still favors giving mercy to the privileged.

Perhaps Orson Welles was right when he said, “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

Imelda’s guilty verdict

Imelda Marcos

After so much wishing and praying for something to prick the ever ballooning ego of each of the remaining Marcos family starting from the wife down to the three children after a glorious political comeback, the decision of the Sandiganbayan declaring guilty and ordering the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos on seven counts of graft committed during the reign of her husband and former dictator Ferdinand Marcos could never have been a more appropriate answer.

The reason for their exceeding arrogance is the fact that they had been going around the country trying to rewrite history by convincing people that the dictatorship was the best thing that ever happened to the country, that there was no crime committed, no human rights violated, and nothing stolen from the coffers of government.

What added even more to the bluster of the Marcos family is the fact that today the despot patriarch is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ cemetery) after years of being kept in a crypt.

Imelda has been found guilty of violating R. A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when she transferred around $200 million to seven Swiss foundations during her term as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa, as Metro Manila Governor, and as then Minister of Human Settlements.

The anti-corruption court’s 5th Division ordered Imelda, a congresswoman, to serve six to 11 years in jail for each of the seven counts of graft.

Now it can be said that Imelda did not only have a cabinet full of shoes and expensive jewelry and artworks, but inside and in a more secluded place of the cabinet were Swiss foundation skeletons bearing the names Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Vibur Foundation, Aguamina Foundation and Avertina Foundation which they allegedly created and managed under the pseudonyms William Saunders and Jane Ryan.

This probably gives credence to the allegations made before by the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth “is estimated between US$5 billion to US$10 billion, the bulk of it being deposited and hidden abroad”.

The question now is, would the children, especially politicians Imee and Bongbong, still have the arrogance to deny this conviction of Imelda after it took decades to decide it or will this decision get them grounded with humility in tow?

Wasn’t this writing on the wall when President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted that Imelda offered to return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth, including a few gold bars, for whatever help it can do to the country’s economy?

While this may be a victory of sorts for all the people who have experienced the dark days of martial law, the moral fight against the Marcoses continue since they can still make an appeal at the Supreme Court for a reversal of the conviction.

But what the aggrieved Filipinos are asking at least is that Imelda be arrested just like any ordinary citizen in the country that has been declared guilty and are praying once more that Duterte won’t pardon her. Let the verdict of the law fall where it may and without regard to age.

Imelda, who is on her last term as Ilocos Norte representative and has already filed a certificate of candidacy for the province’s gubernatorial race in 2019 is sane enough, therefore, to understand that she has committed a crime and answerable for it and that neither age nor stature should make her feel she is above the law.

 

A new twist in Phil-China relationship

 

This is a new twist in the Phil-China relationship that I surely welcome and so should the rest of the Filipino people who feels aggrieved, bullied and disadvantaged over China’s wanton aggression and utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty – the international agreement that defines the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources.

It is now history at what China has done and accomplished in the South China Sea (SCS), of which the West Phil Sea is part of it, and for a little insight you may open this link, among the other pieces I wrote about these controversial seas:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/eez/.

If it is of any consolation at least President Rodrigo Duterte has finally found the courage and the aggressiveness to chide China, calling it wrong the latter’s claim of the airspace over their militarized artificial islands in the SCS.

“That is wrong because those waters are what we consider international sea,” Duterte said in a speech before an audience that included foreign guests.

“You cannot create an island, it’s man-made, and you say that the air above these artificial islands is yours,” the president also said.

The logic of this statement is simply profound and, indeed, incontrovertible.

This rebuke from Duterte came in the wake of a repeated warning radioed by the Chinese military to a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding” while the reconnaissance aircraft flew close to some of the man-made islands.

On this, Duterte said, “I hope that China would temper … its behavior.”

This observation and comments by Duterte did not sit well with Beijing, however, as it ignored Duterte’s chiding, saying and asserting instead that where the man-made islands are in the SCS all are China’s inherent territory and, thus, it has the right to react to foreign ships or aircraft that get close to its islands.

Perhaps piqued by China’s continued arrogance in asserting its supremacy of the airspace over the militarized man-made islands, which for timeless occasions even our own military aircraft patrolling the area receives Chinese radio warnings, Duterte could only issue another relative statement, saying, “You cannot create islands there and claim the sea. That is not an island, artificial islands are not true, are prohibited in the middle sea. ‘Yan nga ang rule diyan eh (That’s the rule there).

Another frustration vented? You bet!

I only hope that in this new twist in Phil-China relationship Duterte will be able to see a lot more to it than meets the eye.

It’s never too late.

World free of death penalty

 

Pope Francis

At least this is what Pope Francis wants as he showed support for the sixth World Congress against capital punishment that was held in Oslo, Norway a few months back.

What this does in effect is change the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the compilation of official Catholic teaching, where, before, it said that the church didn’t exclude recourse to capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

Now the explanation given is that “the previous policy is outdated and that today the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Well, let me just say here that I am writing this piece not because I agree with this new ruling of the church, but rather it is more about expressing my opinion against it.

Whether one is a member of the Catholic Church or not, this is a matter that people all over should be talking about as it is a universal concern.

I just find it absurd that Pope Francis is calling for a world “free of the death penalty” because he says it violates the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.

Sanctity? Dignity?

What about the sanctity and dignity of the victims that are brutally killed, and that may include sometimes innocent children?

How about those that are mercilessly raped and killed that may include sometimes children, too?

Is there still sanctity and dignity left in the lives of these criminals who consciously take illegal drugs in order to carry out a heinous crime?

What is justice for the victims and their grieving families then if those meted out a death penalty is made to live and enjoy the freedom they don’t deserve, even if it is inside the jail?

If there is a group of people who should be more sympathetic to the victims of any heinous crimes, or any crime for that matter, it should be the priests.

I say, stick it out with the old policy of having recourse for death penalty, if and when warranted.

Death penalty never gets outdated. It continues to be current for those deserving to die.

Dissecting the mind of Trump

I am one of many individuals around the world who continues to wonder, and of course to worry, what has become of the United States of America (USA) with Donald Trump as its president.

It makes one even wonder more if Trump really meant what he said when he made popular his rallying cry, ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA).

Or could it be that, for a populist president like Trump, what he wants his slogan to be, absolutely, is ‘Make Trump Great Again’ (MTGA).

It is for this reason that I reprinted here a very engrossing and thought-provoking article I found published in POLITICO Magazine and authored by Ms. Bandy X. Lee and Mr. Tony Schwartz because I want to share with you how ably and aptly they have dissected Trump’s mind and persona that only confirmed, without any doubt, who we truly believe Trump is and what his ambitions are as the leader of the greatest nation on Earth.

In a way this piece is comforting.

Inside the Mind of Donald Trump

He’s grandiose, deceitful and paranoid—but don’t let him drive you crazy.

By BANDY X. LEE and TONY SCHWARTZ

July 27, 2018

Why is President Donald Trump behaving in ways that seem ever more irrational, impulsive, self-destructive, dangerous and cruel? Many Americans have been shocked by Trump’s behavior, most recently by his taking the side of a known enemy in Vladimir Putin and Russia over his own intelligence community.

It isn’t possible to reliably diagnose any individual from a distance, but it is reasonable to flag clear, observable signs of impairment and to make inferences based on repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a significant difference between diagnosing a specific disorder and analyzing the meaning of the qualities Trump exhibits, such as paranoia, grandiosity, lack of empathy and pathological deceit. Trump’s behavior, we believe, is the predictable outgrowth of this psychological disposition, exacerbated by the stress of the intensifying criminal investigations he faces.

Our assessment is based on descriptions from those who have worked with him, his own voluminous responses to real situations in real time, and above all by our unique vantage points. One of us is a forensic psychiatrist who has treated more than 1,000 individuals with characteristics similar to Trump’s. The other spent 18 months shadowing, observing and interviewing Trump in order to co-write The Art of the Deal.

Trump’s increasing grandiosity is evident in the superlatives he uses to refer to himself—“stable genius” among them—and in the way he has consolidated his power by getting rid of aides and Cabinet members who have challenged his authority. Because no person or circumstance can possibly satisfy his needs, nearly everyone in his life eventually becomes expendable, and he becomes more and more isolated.

Trump’s growing paranoia is reflected in the vitriolic comments he has made about a range of perceived enemies, including Democrats and Republicans, allies in the G-7, the intelligence community, the news media and immigrants. His hunger for absolute power is evident in his bizarrely admiring words about despots, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. His frequent lies reveal his need to redefine reality when the truth doesn’t serve his needs.

Given Trump’s volatility, incuriosity and severely limited attention span, his decisions are not significantly influenced by reflection or analytical reasoning. Because he cannot tolerate even the mildest criticism, he is largely immune to learning and growth. Instead, unable to regulate his emotions, he reacts angrily, and often with threats of revenge, to any challenge to his authority. Even success provides him with only momentary satisfaction.

Trump’s psychological disposition has profound implications for our personal, national and international security. Unfortunately, Americans remain deeply reluctant to talk openly about mental health or to recognize how profoundly it can influence behavior. Because the president’s level of mental impairment is so unusual to observe, it is difficult for most of us to understand what catastrophic desperation such people can feel to fill their own inner sense of emptiness.

Trump described to Tony a cold father with whom his relationship was “almost businesslike” and a mother who was mostly uninvolved in his life. Through Bandy’s work interviewing men who were deprived in childhood of the love and support necessary to develop a core self, she concluded that the stable internal center that holds their beliefs, principles, attachments, loyalties—and even their capacity for humanity—never gets well established.

Instead, most such men become almost completely dependent on others for their sense of self-worth. They become hypersensitive to slights. In the most extreme cases, their envy can prompt them to take sadistic pleasure in tormenting perceived enemies, and those they think are getting more respect than they are. In Trump’s case, his need to demonstrate over and over that he is worthy of admiration overwhelms his capacity to focus on nearly anything else.

While our elected officials and much of the news media have avoided the topic of Trump’s mental health, it is clear that our adversaries have carefully studied his psychological weaknesses and determined how to use them to their advantage, as we saw during his negotiations with Putin and Kim Jong Un. Ironically, our own intelligence community does just this sort of analysis about foreign leaders.

Trump’s grip on reality will likely continue to diminish as he faces increasing criticism, accusations, threats of impeachment and potential criminal indictments. We can expect him to become more desperate, more extreme in his comments, more violent in his threats, and more reckless and destructive in his actions. His latest extreme threat to Iran is one example, and he is likely to return to similar threats to North Korea if he feels that Kim Jong Un is making him look weak and unsuccessful.

So how can we hold onto our own mental health in the face of the danger Trump poses? First, don’t use logic or rationality to try to understand or counter Trump’s statements and behaviors. He is driven not by reason but by negative emotions that are infectious. Trump thrives on creating fear and sowing confusion. He lies without guilt. Don’t match his emotion with your own.

Second, be clearer than ever about your core values, beliefs and principles, and rely on them for guidance and comfort, especially when you are feeling most triggered and fearful. Challenge every day the natural inclination to feel overwhelmed, fatigued or numb in the face of Trump’s behavior. This is what people with his psychological inclinations count on. Trump is aware that whatever he says repeatedly—no matter how outrageous—many people are more likely to believe, or at least to stop resisting.

Lastly, recognize that fear is your enemy. Holding onto the opposites of realism and optimism is the best antidote. James Stockdale, a Navy vice admiral, was imprisoned for eight years in North Vietnam and tortured repeatedly. What he said afterward about how he survived is relevant for anyone dealing with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Bandy X. Lee is assistant clinical professor in law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a project leader for the World Health Organization.

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of The Energy Project and the co-author of The Art of the Deal.

Wild Boars players now Buddhist novices

 

Living up to the name of their team ‘Wild Boars’ for their stamina and staying power, eleven of the 12 rescued Thai football players and their coach are momentarily shedding their feral jerseys in exchange for a tamed novice Buddhist robe. The 12th member of the team, who is a Christian, will not join. For the 25-year-old coach Ekkapong Chantawong it will be his second ordination as a monk.

Buddhist males in Thailand are traditionally expected to enter the monkhood, often as novices, at some point in their lives to show gratitude, often toward their parents for raising them. It’s believed that once a person is ordained they gain merit that is also extended to their parents.

There could not be a more propitious time for the group to make a retreat to a temple not only to comply with their beliefs and whatever superstition there may be but more so to show exceptional gratitude for another lease in life bestowed on them by their God after the amazing rescue efforts by an international cave diving experts.

Praphun Khomjoi, chief of Chiang Rai’s Buddhism office, said the 12 to be ordained will also dedicate their merit-generating act of entering the monkhood to a volunteer diver and former Thai navy SEAL, Samarn Gunan, who died while diving during a mission to supply the cave with oxygen tanks essential to helping the trapped players escape.

“This is a good deed that they will perform, intentionally, for Saman, who sacrificed his life for them,” says Phra Khru Khanti Palatorn, abbot of Wat Tangmin in Chiang Rai and chief Buddhist monk for that district. “They become willing to praise those who have been helping them and to get away from the troubles and the debt they owe people.

All is well that ends well and we wish them all Godspeed!